Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, November 7, 2011


There are many creative ways to make your own Advent Book Calendar (for on a mantel, in a basket by the fireplace, or under the tree...)

Advent means "coming" or "arrival".  In the West, for Catholics and Protestants, it traditionally starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.  For Eastern Orthodox Christians, Advent - or the "Nativity Fast" -  begins every year on November 15th and, like Lent, is a 40-day period before Christmas devoted to preparation for the coming of the Messiah.  It is a heightened time of prayer, fasting, acts of charity, and scripture reading.  And, especially for kids, a time to learn patience as they anticipate Christmas Day. 

THE BOOKS: Looking for book recommendations? Here is my CHRISTMAS BOOK LIST, which features some of my favorite Christmas stories for children.  I plan on adding a few more books that I've come across this year to the list, but in the meantime, take a look at it (HERE).

EASY VERSION OF A BOOK CALENDAR: Some families put Christmas-themed books in a basket, wrapped or unwrapped, by the fireplace or under their Christmas tree, so that one book can be read each night. Determine the number of days leading up to Christmas you'd like to read the books (during all of Advent or just during the month of December) and gather together the appropriate amount of books - library books can be mixed in with your own books (just label them, if wrapped, so they won't be overdue).  Some families like the tradition of putting away the books after Christmas and re-visiting them only during Advent.
photo source: Charlotte Mason Home Education

Here is another fun way to make this COUNTDOWN TO CHRISTMAS come alive for your kids. (If "more involved" doesn't appeal to you, scroll down to see my "super simple" options.)

photo source: Babyccino Kids
A blogger mom at Babyccino Kids came up with the idea of wrapping the books in matching paper and lining them across your fireplace mantle. You can number envelopes to go on the front of the packages, and put either an advent activity or bible verse inside for each day (see below).

Inside a numbered envelope taped to each wrapped book, you could write down an activity that each child will perform that day (or something they will anticipate doing the next day, if you unwrap and read the books in the evening).  Activity ideas can be found HERE, from Kimberly Peterson.  A sweet one she came up with is, "Call Grandma and Grandpa and sing a Christmas song" (skyping would be fun, too!) The activity possibilities are endless (like things your could come up with to do for St. Nicholas Day) - please share your ideas!

photo source: tsj photography
Another creative blogger mom posted this idea:  wrap the books and put them under the tree.  On the front of each wrapped package, attach the numbered envelope (coinciding with the day of Advent).  Inside is a card with a special Biblical verse or reading on it, that is placed on the tree after reading.  By Christmas Day, you'll have a tree full of Bible verses! CLICK HERE for the texts/readings for the 40- day Orthodox version of this activity. (It includes Old Calendar dates as well).

How about one (1) book!
Don't worry - if this all sounds overwhelming, you can always purchase a traditional Advent calendar, with windows to open for each night of Advent and this one ADVENT STORYBOOK (it has "24 stories to share before Christmas"), by Antonie Scheinder.
... Benjamin Bear is so impatient for Christmas to come. To help the time pass more quickly, his mother tells him that every day when he opens a door on his Advent calendar she'll tell him a story—twenty-four stories all about another little bear and his long, arduous journey to Bethlehem. The little bear, led by a glittering star, meets many others on his travels across hot deserts, snowy mountains, and through dark, lonely nights. His adventures, filled with acts of heroism and kindness and many small miracles, show him the path to the Christ Child. And by journey's end Benjamin Bear—and all youngsters who share the stories and their simple morals along with him—will understand and celebrate the true spirit of Christmas. (Thanks to a sweet mom and fellow blogger, Sylvia Leontaritis for this book recommendation from her post in ADVENTURES OF AN ORTHODOX MOM).

OR this book set advent calendar-in-one option...
I love "The Story of Christmas Book Set and Advent Calendar", by Mary Packard, illustrated by Caroline Croll.  This particular calendar is made up of 24 little books to be read and then hung on the Christmas tree, from December 1st  through Christmas Eve.
Click here for ordering info

I've come across some beautiful 41-day Orthodox Calendars, like the one below, available HERE.
Each window opens to reveal the saint of the day.

I also love this one, with the Madonna and Child, taken from Ruth Sanderson's beautiful cover art from her picture book, THE NATIVITY (yes, it's on my "Christmas Book List" of favorites). Calendar Available HERE (24 windows for December).
Each window opens with a picture and a Bible verse.

THE WINTER PASCHA, by Thomas Hopko. Forty meditations for the season of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  (excerpts can be found here).


  1. Such great ideas! Thanks for sharing them.

  2. oh my goodness! i had never thought of doing advent with books. we have a christmas tree that we decorate with ornaments (each ornament is in a numbered box) but i might have to incorporate that mantle idea. soo great. thanks!

  3. It's almost overwhelming how many awesome ideas you are sharing...thank you again for the "Story of Christmas" books that you sent last year...we cherish it. I like reading the Bible for my girls, too, as they are older and can understand it better. I also LOVE that photo of all the books lined up and wrapped in red with tags on them. I may end up doing that, but wrapping up books we already have that are related to the Nativity of Christ, unwrapping and reading together would be a lovely way to start of the day!

  4. I tried to find a variety of Advent calendar choices with different levels of involvement, so you could pick and choose/adapt what works best for your family.

    Martha, I'm so happy you won my giveaway last year - and glad you like the Story of Christmas Books and Advent Calendar. Chinaberry.com is offering it at a discount today (11/8) only, if you click on the link I posted.

  5. We really love it. I think I'm going to pass the books on to my sister's kids, when mine outgrow interest, but for now, they enjoy it! I've decided I'm going to wrap up books and put them on our fireplace mantle, too, then each morning we upwrap one and read it together...